Depression is no laughing matter—and neither is simple sadness. The National Institute for Mental Health says about 11 percent of adolescents have some form of diagnosed depression by the time they hit 18. And oft-linked suicide is the third leading cause of death for girls and guys ages 15 to 24. Bottom line: depression is a serious topic we need to talk about. Let’s start at the beginning: what is depression, and what makes it different from being sad?
Sadness is normal
humans feel it, some more frequently than others. It’s what you feel when life
doesn’t go your way, when you’re disappointed, when you’re hurt, when you’re
betrayed. It’s linked to grief, though grief can be longer-lasting and can tend
to dull other emotions in the same way depression can.
So when someone says “I feel so
depressed,” what do they really mean?
A lot of the time, they mean they feel sad. Or disappointed. Or hurt. A
lot of people hyperbolize—or exaggerate—their feelings and experiences to make
them appear more dramatic than they are. That’s not to say sadness is trivial—it’s
certainly not. But just because a friend says she’s depressed doesn’t mean she
OK, then what’s depression?
Doctors use a book called the Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM for short) for the official
classifications of mental disorders. A depressive disorder (sometimes called
major depression) goes on for far longer than typical sadness. It is constant
and unbroken by spurts of happiness or laughter. It affects everything: the way
you sleep, the way you think, the way you feel. It can drastically alter your
behavior, make you lost interest in hobbies and activities you used to love and
make you apathetic to life in general. You might feel hopeless or guilty. You
might feel that life is not worth living. You might not have the energy to get
out of bed. And it can last a really, really long time.
How can I tell if my friend is
(or I am) depressed?
Here are some common signs the docs use to decide if you might have
+ You are withdrawn from friends and families
+ You are angry when you typically are not
+ You are failing in school and don’t care
+ You lose weight (about 5 percent of your standard mass)
+ You develop insomnia
+ You stop doing things you love
+ You don’t talk about your feelings
+ You consider or attempt suicide
+ You consider or attempt self harm
Is there some sort of treatment?
You bet. Half of adults struggling with depression are not treated, but
there are medications and other therapies that can make you feel like yourself
again. You should always speak to
your doctor before trying anything, and to get a referral for a specialist in
mental health or a therapist. Recent studies find that teens respond the best
to a combination of medications and psychotherapy.
But…it’s kind of embarrassing,
admitting you have a mental health problem…
Yeah, it might be. But it SHOULDN’T be. Millions of people suffer from
the same problems and feelings and thoughts you do, through no fault of their
own. Any problem you’re having is NOT your fault, but there are things you can
do to feel better. So why not do them? If you’re not comfortable talking about
it with others, discuss it with an adult you can trust not to spill the beans,
like a doctor or counselor. One of society’s biggest problems is the way it
views mental health issues. We need to make it clear that diseases like
depression are no different from broken bones and asthma and diabetes—they need
to be treated like the illnesses they are.
So please, if you’re feeling like you might be depressed, or simply
want to talk about what’s going on inside your head, don’t hesitate to do so.
You can even do it anonymously and confidentially. We’re big fans of The
Trevor Project. You can call their toll-free hotline 24/7 at
1-866-488-7386. You can text their professionals, chat live online and talk
with other teens like you in their web forums.
Talk out what you think and feel
about depression and mental health in the comments, cuties, but please be
respectful of each other.
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BY BRITTANY TAYLOR ON 5/8/2014 5:51:00 PM
POSTED IN mind/motivation, cutting, dealing with depression, dealing with death, dealing with tragedy, self-esteem